Why Does Blackpool Have Illuminations?

The Blackpool Illuminations return again this year, but do you know how they came about?  Let’s take a quick look at the history of the illuminations!


Back in 1879, when streets all over the UK were still lit with gas lighting, Blackpool Council decided to invest a whopping £5000 into experimenting with the new electric lighting systems which were at the time still in their infancy.  Back then, £5,000 was a lot of money!


On the 19th of September in 1879, 8 arc lamps were installed on the promenade, spaced 320 yards from one another.   These lights were the cutting edge technology for the day and produced the same amount of light as 48,000 candles each.  These days, we wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at that kind of power but back in 1879, this was a real treat to see.  With national advertisements about this light show extravaganza, some 70,000-100,000 people made their way to Blackpool.  It’s possible that these lights, which were referred to as “artificial sunshine” were the first electric street lights in the world!

Over the next few years, the event developed and in May 1912, a display was put together that bore some resemblance to the display that Blackpool offers today.  The event was created to mark the first ever Royal visit to Blackpool.  Just like the light switch on that thousands of people attend in the present day, Princess Louise ceremoniously opened the Princess Parade, which was a new section of promenade.  The promenade was decorated with garland lights.


As each of the lights that feature in the illuminations are created especially for Blackpool, it’s important that they’re looked after.  At the end of the illuminations season, the lights are carefully taken down and are cleaned and maintained at their depot on Rigby Road.

This year, the illuminations will run from the 1st of September to the 5th of November.  This is an important event for Blackpool because it ensures that the tourism season can continue in the resort even after the summer sun has packed its bags.